Well folks. That sucked. I wholeheartedly went into Sunday’s NY Jets matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals expecting a Gang Green win. After a hot start, which we saw quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (189 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) look sharp as ever, it was just not a sustainable effort. The usual clutch Nick Folk had a basic field goal blocked and missed a point after attempt. Darrelle Revis and his 31-year-old self was absolutely torched by AJ Green (12 receptions, 180 yards, 1 TD). It was so terrible I literally questioned how many other elite receivers Revis must face this season, because I have concerns. A Twitter follower told me to keep the faith. 😕 And, when wide receiver Brandon Marshall (32 yards) is missing in action, losing by one point despite your defensive line pounding quarterback Andy Dalton (396 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) seven times, should never happen, but you understand how it could.
In the end, the Jets lost the game in the most Jets way ever. With multiple opportunities to win — including five trips to the red zone — they just didn’t get it done. The final drive went something like this: incomplete pass, incomplete pass, interception. Game over. Record 0-1.
Sigh…here are just 3 takeaways that left me wallowing in my mixed bag of feelings.
NO MARSHALL, NO MOVEMENT
Listen. I don’t care how many offensive weapons we can employ at an opposing defensive, if Brandon Marshall isn’t an active target, the Jets offense will not be great. It just won’t happen. In 17 games, the Jets are 2-4 when Marshall catches fewer than six passes. Let’s not make this a habit.
Last season, Marshall was targeted 173 times, had 14 touchdowns and totaled 1,502 receiving yards. Sunday? Only eight targets, three receptions, and 33 yards. WTF is that? Look, I recognize Quincy Enunwa (54 yards, 1 TD), a guy I’m a huge fan of, put in work. And Matt Forte’s versatility as a running back (96 yards) and a receiver (59 yards) out of the backfield, as well as the outside increases Fitzpatrick’s options — Forte led the team in rushing and receiving yards — but no one is as impactful as Marshall. Granted, Marshall did drop a HUGE wide open catchable pass on the final drive within one minute to go, while down one point, but still, I’d go to war with him over Eric Decker (37 yards, 1 TD), Enunwa, Forte, or running back Bilal Powell (41 yards) any day of the week.
Here’s the positive — some of the incompletions had to do with rust…and some solid one-on-one coverage by the Bengals, if I’m being honest. Buttttttt with Fitzpatrick’s hold out, and Marshall’s minor injury towards the end of the preseason, today marked the first day that Fitz, Marshall, Decker, and Forte were all on the field at the same time. So, it’ll take another game or two for them to reclaim last season’s magic, and I get that. But the only way for them to get that old thing back is to get reps in. If the Jets want to maximize their chances of winning, Marshall must be more actively involved in the offense. Period.
D-LINE IS DEEEEEEEEEP
Here’s all you need to know: the Jets sacked quarterback Andy Dalton seven times, and they didn’t even have Sheldon Richardson. That should scare a lot of teams. But this is not some shocking development.
During the preseason, the one thing I was certain of was that our defensive line would be a force to reckon with, and that was with the loss of Damon “Snacks” Harrison, who signed with the NY Giants during free agency. My confidence in the offense was meh…and the secondary was ugh…but the D-line…strong! In the preseason, the first unit consistently bullied their opponents offensive line.
In July, NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal went on record as saying the Jets had the second top-ranked defensive line in the league this season, behind the Los Angeles Rams. I haven’t seen the Rams play, but I’ll go out on a whim and say nah. Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, who wasn’t even active this week due to serving a one week suspension, aren’t to be messed with. And second-year defensive end Leonard “Big Cat” Williams has adjusted to NFL life and the speed of the game in impressive fashion. Yesterday, he recorded 2.5 sacks. No sophomore bust here. And, newcomer Steve McClendon isn’t too shabby either. When you don’t have the reputation as Richardson or the instincts as Mo Wilkerson, it’s kind of easy for a guy like McClendon, who had an unsteady career in Pittsburgh for the past six seasons, to get some early recognition. But when you record two solo sacks in your Jets debut? People start taking notice.
It’s a good thing too because the secondary is shaky. Outside of Marcus Williams’ early interception, there wasn’t much to celebrate. Revis did not have a great game, and he admitted as much. Safety Marcus Gilchrist made some costly mistakes, and with the likes of Buffalo Bills Sammy Watkins, Pittsburgh Steelers Antonio Brown, and the Arizona Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald among the elite wide receivers likely to visit Revis Island this season, we’ll need the defensive line to come heavy with the pass rush and blitzes to prevent opposing quarterbacks from even getting a look down the field.
Because in true Jets fashion, the defense will have to play big to make up for the sluggish offense. And if the secondary isn’t stepping up, welp…that puts all of the pressure on the D-line to do the work. Good thing they already seem up for the task!
RED ZONED OUT
Last season, the Jets were third in the league in red zone efficiency, behind the Carolina Panthers and Detroit Lions. And at home, they were 73%. Those are excellent numbers, and numbers the team should absolutely aspire to reach after today’s atrocious red zone performance. They were 2-5, or just 40%.
On the first drive, they cruised into the end zone. Eleven plays, five first downs, and less than five minutes later, the Jets were up 7-0. But then it all went down hill. Twice, the Jets marched down the field, were five yards or fewer from the end zone, and only came away with three points total. Between questionable play calling, poor execution, and a blocked field goal, way too many points were left on the field. Again, how do you sack a quarterback seven times and still lose? How Sway?!
The Jets travel to Buffalo to face Rex Ryan and the Bills. It’s a short week for these division rivals, who are both looking to get its first win of the season on Thursday. Also, Buffalo’s top receiver Watkins, as well as the Jets’ Marshall both had underwhelming debuts on Sunday. Whoever rebounds best will be the difference between a win and a loss. Even though the Jets are on the road for this game, I predict the Jets go 1-1 to start to the season.